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Tuning in to Telesur's agenda
We look at how 'Latin America's CNN' is dividing regional opinions over its credibility and allegiances.
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2012 14:12

Like other relatively new international news channels such as Russia's RT, Iran's Press TV, China's CCTV and France 24, Telesur is government-backed. Inspired by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, and jointly-funded by other left-wing governments in the region, the channel was designed to provide an alternative to Latin America's privately-owned media conglomerates, the bulk of which lean to the political right.

Depending on who is writing the reviews, Telesur is either a pioneering and much needed media voice or a mere propaganda tool for Chavez and his political allies.

When audiences tune in to Telesur, what they see on their screens is different: Extensive coverage of social movements around Latin America and beyond; round table discussions on the Western world's financial crisis; documentaries highlighting the plight of the continent's indigenous peoples.

"The motto of Telesur itself is 'our north is the south'. That is to say that the objective is to tell the south about the south, by the south itself. It's something that’s never been done in the past."

-Francisco Dominguez, the head of the Centre for Latin American Studies at Middlesex University

But to engage an audience - you have to find one.

Telesur has a distribution problem: It has had trouble making deals with regional cable companies and has even claimed that it is a victim of a boycott. In 2008, the channel said it was reaching three million homes by cable - about one quarter of CNN Espanol's audience.

There are also questions about funding. When the channel launched, governments around the region pledged money. But ask Telesur who funds the channel today and the story gets murky - which only goes to reinforce the notion that Telesur is TeleChavez in disguise.

Then there is the issue of editorial balance and credibility.

There is little doubt that the channel reflects the Venezuelan government's own politics - and sometimes its foreign policy. During the Arab Spring, if Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad were looking for positive coverage, they found it on Telesur.

And this year's presidential elections in Venezuela are expected to show how objective this so-called international news channel really is. While it may be comprehensive will it be balanced? And can it bring in a wider audience or will it be preaching to the converted?

"I don't think that it's balanced at all - it's the same as all the other propaganda projects Chavez has. It would be marvellous if Telesur could be the voice of all Latin Americans, but it's not, it's just one voice."

Maria Fernanda Flores, the president of Globovision 

 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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